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Teen Convicted of Lighting Skirt on Fire Sentenced to 7 Years in Prison

Erin Baldassari (BCN)
Friday November 14, 2014 - 07:47:00 PM

A 17-year-old Oakland boy who pleaded no contest to setting another teen's skirt on fire on an AC Transit bus last November was sentenced today to seven years in state prison, according to the Alameda District Attorney's Office. 

Richard Thomas, who is being prosecuted as an adult, was found guilty of felony assault and inflicting great bodily injury following an attack on 19-year-old Luke "Sasha" Fleischman on Nov. 4, 2013.  

Fleischman, who was named Luke at birth but doesn't identify as either male or female, suffered second- and third-degree burns after Thomas used a lighter to set Fleischman's clothing on fire.  

Fleischman was sleeping in the back of an AC Transit bus traveling near MacArthur Boulevard and Ardley Avenue in Oakland at around 5:20 p.m. on Nov. 4 when the incident occurred. 

Fleischman was treated at the burn unit at St. Francis Memorial Hospital in San Francisco for three weeks. He was released the day before Thanksgiving and returned to his classes at Berkeley's Maybeck High School the following week.  

Thomas's defense attorney William DuBois characterized the act as a prank that got out of control, and has said the defendant was "mortified" when Fleischman became engulfed in flames. 

On March 6, Thomas waived his right to have a preliminary hearing in the case. Security footage from the AC Transit bus made it clear that Thomas was the person who set Fleischman on fire, defense lawyers said. 

Thomas was initially charged with mayhem and hate crimes, but those charges were dropped in a plea bargain in October.  

Alameda County District Attorney Teresa Drenick said Thomas would return to court 90 days from today to receive an evaluation regarding his custody conduct at the Division of Juvenile Justice.  

If he is fully engaging in the programs and services offered and is behaving with good conduct, there would be an additional review of his conduct in July 2015, right before his 18th birthday, Drenick said. 

At that time, Thomas will be eligible for a reduced sentence if he can demonstrate good progress in the programs and services offered. Drenick said the Department of Juvenile Justice will have the discretion to house Thomas for the remainder of his sentence if they believe he is amenable to their services.